As the annual Amarnath yatra begins on Saturday, the first batch of nearly 8000 pilgrims trek the arduous 16-km journey from Baltal to reach the cave shrine. Baltal route is only available route to holy cave at the moment after the traditional snowbound Pahalgam route has been deferred for the pilgrimage. Bilal Bahadur captures the Baltal frames
The annual pilgrimage to the 3,880 metre high holy cave shrine will officially last for the 44-day this year.
SASB deferred the yatra from the Pahalgam route by three days as the track had not yet been completely cleared of snow.
After receiving very heavy snowfall during the winter,about seven to eight feet of snow still exist at several places around the cave shrine.
Between June and August each year, Hindu pilgrims trek on the glaciers on their way to holy cave.
Recent studies have shown that over the years, the snowcapped mountains and glaciers have turned black due to the pollution generated from hundreds of thousands of yatris.
Environmentalists have expressed concern that the number of people participating in the Amarnath Yatra is having a negative impact on the area’s ecology.
“A glacier is subzero, but thousands of people emit radiation at 37 degrees Celsius, whether it is yatri [pilgrims] or anybody,” says Shakil Romshoo, a professor of science at Kashmir University.
The cave is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims.
Thousands of Hindu devotees make an annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave on challenging mountainous terrain to see an ice stalagmite formed inside the cave.
The cave waxes during May to August, as snow melts in the Himalayas above the cave and the resultant water seeps into the rocks that form the cave and gradually wanes thereafter.
As per the religious beliefs, it has been claimed that the lingam grows and shrinks with the phases of the moon reaching its height during the summer festival, although there is no scientific evidence for this belief.
The main purpose of the annual pilgrimage to the cave is worship of the ice stalagmite Lingam.
A three-tier security ring, comprising of police, CRPF,BSF and Army, has been put in place along the route to ensure peaceful yatra.